As the nation’s fourth largest state by area, with the second smallest population, Montana is one of the last frontiers of the American West - overflowing with open space, rolling hills and vibrant wildlife. But it’s not just the land that’s been preserved. Many of the values of time’s past endure, like the significance of a handshake or the importance of buying local.
Those ideals remain close to Cliff, Chris and John Edwards and their team at Edwards Jet Center (EJC), the largest fixed-base operator (FBO) in Montana and one of CityServiceValcon’s Phillips 66® Aviation’s branded FBOs. The locally owned FBO is celebrating 20 years since Cliff Edwards bought Lynch Flying Service back in 2001. Despite changing the name and adding services, Edwards kept the business intact, ensuring he and the local flying community retained its connection to one of the first FBOs built in Montana, dating back to the late 1940s.
“As a loyal customer of Lynch for twenty-five years, I admired the family-owned nature… and felt it was time for a statewide, full-service aviation business with greatly expanded charter availability,” Edwards said in an online letter to his customers.
Located at Logan International Airport (KBIL) in Billings, EJC now boasts a fleet of eight aircraft and 29 experienced pilots at the ready, 24 hours per day, to charter flights throughout North America. The full-service FBO is Montana’s only full-line Cessna dealer with the largest inventory of Cessna parts in the entire state. In addition, EJC offers 60,000 square feet of heated hangar space, along with 24-hour FBO services, including fueling, maintenance, towing, de-icing, waste disposal and aircraft cleaning.
EJC has become a vital asset to the local economy, not only for its wide-ranging services but also for its ties to the community. The company has formed key relationships with Phillips 66 Aviation and local fuel logistics provider CityServiceValcon, which partners with EJC to deliver fuel to EJC’s corporate and general aviation customers in the Billings area.
“There’s a lot of synergy between our three companies because we are so uniquely located geographically,” EJC General Manager Robb Bergeson said. “The Phillips 66 refinery is just a few miles away, and, with CityServiceValcon being a Montana-based company, having strong ties to the Billings area, it just makes sense that we are working together.”
EJC’S commitment to strong relationships also flows to its customers.
“The dedication and contributions of our employees has been the cornerstone of our success, and the building blocks of our future,” Bergeson said. “We would not be who we are or where we are today without the passion of our employees.”
Bergeson has been with the company for more than 20 years, and he had the opportunity to see his team at their best this past year when the pandemic shook the world.
“Many places out here are as rural as you can get, so access to healthcare is difficult,” Bergeson said. “The small towns usually have a hospital with a general practitioner, but they typically don’t have the resources to serve the technical needs that our hospitals in Billings can offer. So, we’ve expanded our air ambulance operation, managing four airplanes for two hospitals in the region.”
EJC contracts with Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare, managing the fixed-wing Air Ambulance programs at both hospitals, in addition to providing pilot staffing, maintenance and fueling services for the hospitals’ multiple King Air B200 aircraft. The programs allow the hospitals to transport critical patients, and patient families, to and from healthcare facilities around the region.
“We are proud of our relationship with the medical community here in Billings, especially looking back at the height of the pandemic when our rural areas needed that connection to the medical resources that their local communities didn’t have access to,” Bergeson said.
Over the last 20 years Billings has grown and become the commercial hub for the state. In conjunction with the population growth in the region and the expansion of the corporate world, more companies are utilizing the general aviation services of EJC to move their teams around—not only because EJC is trusted to get the job done but also sought after for its commitment to quality customer service and Montana’s treasured values.
“It’s still the Old West up here and people like to do business with those who they can shake hands with,” Bergeson said.
EJC is a member of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). To learn more about Edwards Jet Center, visit edwardsjetcenter.com.